“Bhaiya, mere chaat me meetha mat daalna”!
Our first words whenever we go to our Chaat wale bhaiyya. Everyone here in Delhi has their chaat corners fixed according to their palate, and vendors are more than happy to customize dishes for their patrons. Do you know that our loving Chaat has some history too? Let’s check out that!
History of Chaat – A Myth
They say the word ‘chaat’ originated from its literal meaning ‘to lick.’ Others say it originated based on its flavours’ chatpati’. But in reality, no one truly knows about the origin. According to one folklore, a cholera outbreak occurred during Emperor Shah Jahan’s reign in the 16th century. Physicians and sorcerers made desperate attempts to control it. One solution suggested was to cook food with a lot of spices to kill the bacteria inside. Thus was born the spicy, tangy Chaat, which is said to have been consumed by the entire population of Delhi.
A slight variation attributes it to Hakim Ali, a court physician. He realized that the foul water in a Jamuna could result in serious water-borne diseases and believed that the only way to prevent it was to add a liberal dose of spices to the food — tamarind, red chillies, coriander, mint, and so on. However, no one knows if these stories are true. But whatever it may be, we Indians are super happy to have lip smacking dish.
The food scene in Delhi is as grand and diverse as its history. It’s nearly impossible to cover all of Delhi’s iconic food joints in one visit; the best way to do so is to go area by area. The narrow by-lanes of Old Delhi tell stories about an overwhelming relationship with food that began during the Mughal era. The radiating Chandni Chowk could be on one side, and you could dig into a plate of Chaat on the other.
When you visit these market carts, you will see a big hot iron pan with lots of aloo tikkis on it. Then you will see the Pani Puri section, where two types of Puris will be available in Delhi, Sooji wale and Maida wale. Many masalas (out of which one will be the secret), Chutneys, Chopped onions, green chillies, and finely chopped coriander. And from all these items, you can customize your Chaat according to your taste.
This culture of food customization, which is now widespread in western countries, might have originated in India. Do you also feel the same?